Panasonic DMC S3 Review

Simple and Easy

14 Megapixels    4x Zoom

Dimensions: 98.8 x 58.8 x 20.9mm    Weight: 117g

Good Points: Picture quality, value for money, response times, ease of use

Bad Points: Noise of zoom picked up in movie mode


Panasonic DMC S3 Shutter Lag Rating fast Ease of Use easy Camera Name Rating

Overview

The Panasonic Lumix DMC S3 is a simple, inexpensive pocket camera. It is the first model in what looks to be a new section of the Panasonic range. Compared with their other models it is cheaper and offers a different body shape, with rounded edges.

The Lumix DMC S3 is likely to appeal to you if you are looking for a simple, no fuss, point and shoot digital camera. It also has one or two extra features thrown in that other digital cameras in this price bracket may find difficult to compete with.

You can buy the Lumix DMC S3 in black, silver, pink, purple and red.

Why Buy the Panasonic DMC S3

If you are looking for an inexpensive, smaller compact the Lumix DMC S3 is a very good choice. Picture quality, features, response times and ease of use all compare favourably against digital cameras with a similar price tag.

Features

Looking through the features available there does not appear to be any important omissions for a point and shoot digital camera. The 14 megapixels on offer and the 4x optical zoom lens are about standard. The lens has wide angle capabilities. This can help you if you are planning to photograph wide scenes rather than zoom in on more distant subjects. The focal length of the lens is equivalent to 28 - 112mm in 35mm format.

How to Increase the Amount of Zoom Available to You

Panasonic include a very useful feature on their cameras. It is called extra zoom. This gives you increased flexibility. If you find the 4x zoom lens will not get you in quite close enough for your photo you can opt to reduce the number of megapixels you are shooting at. When you do that more zoom automatically becomes available. The extra zoom kicks in on a sliding scale. A maximum of 8.4x zoom is available when you decrease the number of megapixels you are shooting at to 3 megapixels.

Image Stabilisation for Sharper Photos

Not all digital cameras at this price point will offer you image stabilisation. This is a feature that is likely to come into its own when you are taking photos in lower light and you are unable to use flash. With less light available the camera needs to keep the shutter open for that bit longer. That in turn makes it harder for you to keep the camera rock steady while the camera captures the photo. Image stabilisation compensates for tiny movement of the camera during the time the shutter is open. This helps you to take pin sharp pictures.

High Definition Movie Mode

A lot of digital cameras at around this price point will not offer High Definition movies. The fact that the Lumix DMC S3 does is another plus.

Select Your Ideal Picture Shape

The shape of your picture can make a difference to how your prints look. This camera offers you three different aspect ratios. The first is 4:3. This is ideal for viewing photos on an older computer screen or television set. 16:9 gives you the perfect dimensions for viewing on a widescreen television. The final ratio of 3:2 means your image does not need to be trimmed for a 6 x 4 inch print.

Easy Upload to Facebook and YouTube

If you spend time sharing your still photos and video clips with friends this special upload mode should save you a bit of time. All you need to do is checkmark pictures and clips you would like to upload and then the Lumix DMC S3 walks you through the process of uploading to Facebook and Youtube.

A Few More Advanced Features For You To Use

Although the Lumix DMC S3 operates primarily as a simple point and shoot digital camera it is always useful to have access to more advanced features if you want to take a bit of extra control here and there.

For example if the light is truly murky you can opt to increase the ISO setting. This makes the sensor more sensitive to light. It is best to use this feature sparingly as higher ISO settings can lead to noise in your photos. You can also choose to set the ISO level to a low setting. This forces the camera to use other methods to achieve the correct exposure. This can lead to a reduction in noise levels in darker areas and therefore an increase in picture quality.

Another useful feature is white balance. If you find your photos lack a bit of zip it may be worth experimenting with white balance. This can boost the vividness of your colours as well as adding a warmer or cooler look to your photos.

Image Quality

Outdoor Scenic Shot 1

The Lumix DMC S3 gets off to a good start. This is a bright, colourful picture. There is a high level of contrast in this shot, but the camera handles this well and brings out as much detail as can be expected. With the light coloured, reflective surfaces of the boats you might expect to see problems with sun glare, but the camera manages to minimise any loss of detail in this areas.

Outdoor Scenic Shot 2

Digital cameras find this shot the most difficult when it comes to producing sharpness from edge to edge. This is especially true of digital cameras with wide angle lenses. Taking those points into account the Lumix DMC S3 does as well as most cameras with a similar price tag manage. In terms of sharpness this is the weakest test shot. As this is such a tough test this is to be expected. There is also a touch of purple fringing showing. This is at a very low level and you are unlikely to be unduly bothered by this issue.

Outdoor Scenic Shot 3

This is an impressive effort. There are plenty of more expensive digital cameras that struggle to produce a shot with this level of clarity. The scene retains a natural look. Even in the darker areas of the trees there is still plenty of detail showing.

Outdoor Building

On the whole this shot is pleasingly sharp. There is that loss of absolute sharpness as you move to the very edges of the shot, but that it a minor complaint. Sharpness levels remain around the 8 out of 10 level. That is very high for this type of camera.

The amount of sharpness lost is unlikely to have much of an impact on smaller snapshot sized photos. It is only when you really start to crank up the print size that you are likely to notice any significant difference.

Outdoor Portrait

As with other Panasonic digital cameras you get a white balance option of shady. This is another extra option that few other brands include. Although you can leave white balance on its automatic default setting you may find that using the shady white balance setting adds some extra warmth to your portrait shots. This will give them a more flattering look.

Indoor Portrait With Flash

The amount of light emitted by the flash unit is just about right. There is enough light to brighten the subject, but it is controlled well enough to ensure colour is not washed out of the shot altogether. The light is also relatively soft. This avoids the light reflecting back off the face and creating shiny areas on the skin.

Indoor Portrait Without Flash

This photo has a warmer look to it than the shot taken using flash. The level of detail in the picture is good. Even though light indoors can appear to be bright it is still a hard task for a digital camera to take clear, sharp photos without flash being turned on.

Macro

Macro quality is good for an unpretentious pocket camera. Sure you are not going to be able to create the ultimate close up shots that some more expensive cameras are capable of, but the standard compares well against this camera's more direct rivals.

Colours

The Lumix DMC S3 can pack plenty of colour into your photos. Although there is now a lot less difference between the different digital camera brands when it comes to colour in a picture, Panasonic still manage to add a touch of extra power to their colours.

Noise

On the whole noise levels are kept under control. Shady areas away from the centre of the shot are where the camera comes under most pressure. There is some definition lost in those areas. If you are planning to boost the ISO setting yourself you are likely to see noise as an increasing issue as you move above ISO 400.

Picture Quality Summary

Taking into account the price of the Lumix DMC S3 it is capable of producing good quality snapshots. When it comes to picture quality the biggest difference between this and more expensive cameras is that slight loss of sharpness as you move out towards the edges of more distant scenes.

Top Rated Cameras in this Category

Canon Powershot A4000 IS Rating 84/100

You get quite a lot for your money with the Canon Powershot A4000 IS. If you only plan to make small sized prints or share your photos on the Internet you may not see a great deal of difference between the photos taken with this camera and those taken with other models available at around the same price. What you might notice is that the pictures have a touch more clarity. This is likely to become more evident if you make larger prints. To sum up, if you are looking for a handy compact camera, at a reasonable price, that can cope very well with most photo opportunities this camera is hard to beat.

Read Review: Canon Powershot A4000 IS Review

Panasonic DMC S5 Rating 84/100

If you are looking for a cheap pocket sized digital camera it is difficult to find one offering better picture quality than the Panasonic Lumix DMC S5. It is such a small camera and very easy to use. It is almost the ideal snapshot camera if you do not want to spend a great deal of money.

Read Review: Panasonic DMC S5 Review

Panasonic DMC S3 Rating 84/100

The Panasonic Lumix DMC S3 is an excellent value for money pocket camera. It is very hard to beat when compared alongside its direct rivals. Picture quality and features have an edge over many of its competitors while the rapid response times are also a big plus point. If you are looking for a cheaper compact digital camera then you can’t go far wrong with the Lumix DMC S3.

Read Review: Panasonic DMC S3 Review

Related Pages

Panasonic DMC S3 Specification

Panasonic DMC S3 Sample Images

Digital Camera Reviews

Panasonic Digital Cameras

Review Date

Review Date: May 2011

Verdict

The Panasonic Lumix DMC S3 is an excellent value for money pocket camera. It is very hard to beat when compared alongside its direct rivals. Picture quality and features have an edge over many of its competitors while the rapid response times are also a big plus point. If you are looking for a cheaper compact digital camera then you can't go far wrong with the Lumix DMC S3.

Ratings

Ease of Use:
Features:
Movie Mode:
Build Quality:
Colours:

9
8
8
8
8

Photo Quality:
Style:
Indoors:
Macro:
Value for Money:

Total:

8
8
9
8
10

84

Main Features

Megapixels:
Zoom:
LCD Screen:
Dimensions:
Weight:
Macro:
HD Movies:
Manual Controls:
Batteries:
Memory Cards:

14
4x
2.7 inches
98.8 x 58.8 x 20.9mm
117g
5cm
Yes
No
Lithium-ion Rechargeable
SD/SDHC/SDXC

Shutter Lag Times

Single Shot:
Five Shots:
Single Shot With Flash:
Five Shots With Flash:
Turn on Time:

0.24 seconds
7.67 seconds
0.54 seconds
9.81 seconds
1.87 seconds

Shutter Lag Table

Handling

The Lumix DMC S3 is a small and lightweight digital camera. Without a battery and memory card it weighs 100g. That makes it one of the most lightweight digital cameras around. At 20.9mm wide it is also one of the more compact digital cameras. You should have no problems slipping it into a pocket.

You Can Still Get a Good Grip

Being able to hold your digital camera steady when you take a photo helps you to create sharp, clear photos. Despite its small size and polished finish you can still take a good grip of the camera. This is partly down to the way Panasonic have designed the camera with a space on the back of the camera for you to place your thumb.

Flash and Lens Positioned Away Form Your Fingers

The flash unit is in a central position on the front of the camera. This means that a stray finger is unlikely to get in the way of the flash unit and cut down the amount of light available to you. Likewise the lens has been positioned away from the top corner. This reduces the chances of a stray finger appearing in your photos.

Fast Response Ensures You Capture the Picture

One area where this camera does exceptionally well is when it comes to response times. The time lag between pressing the shutter button and your picture being captured is very short. This is usually an area where less expensive cameras struggle. So top marks to the Lumix DMC S3 when it comes to shutter lag. The time taken to turn the camera on and snap the first picture was also impressive.

LCD Screen Size and Quality

The screen is 2.7 inches in size. Cameras at this level tend to be split between those offering 2.7 inch screens and those offering a larger 3 inch screen. Panasonic have a special mode that allows you to set the screen up so it is easier to view it if you need to hold the camera above eye level to take a shot.

Controls on Top of the Camera

There are two buttons on the top of the camera. The first is turn the Lumix DMC S3 on and off. The second is the shutter button.

Controls on the Back of The Camera

At the top on the back of the camera is a control to zoom in and out. The next button down selects the shooting mode. After this comes the main navigation area. This has four controls running around a button to access the menu and confirm a setting. The four controls are for exposure compensation, selecting the flash mode, changing the information displayed on the LCD screen and turning on the self timer.

Towards the bottom are buttons for reviewing images and deleting images.

How Intelligent Auto and Scene Modes Can Improve Your Pictures

When you place the Lumix DMC S3 in Intelligent Auto mode you hand control to the camera. It attempts to identify the type of picture you are planning to take and changes settings accordingly.

By placing the camera in scene mode you give it a nudge in the right direction so that it knows the type of photo you are about to take. This enables it to use what it considers to be the optimum settings to be for your photo. There are a total of 16 scene modes including portrait, sports, scenery and night portrait settings.

What's In The Menu System?

The initial menu screen gives you two options. These give you access to the main menu and a setup menu.

The main menu is brief and runs to just 12 items. These include giving you access to features such as ISO and White Balance.

The Set Up menu runs to 14 items. You use this menu to change items such as the language and data and time.

What's Missing?

There is not a lot I would change with the layout. There is no dedicated movie button to start and stop movie recording. Many cameras now offer a button to starting recording a movie. To record a movie you need to press the mode button and switch to movie mode.

Product Shots

Front View

Panasonic DMC S3 Front View

Back View

Panasonic DMC S3 Back View

Top View

Panasonic DMC S3 Top View

Sample Menus

menu 1 menu 2

menu 3 menu 4